In warehouse and fulfillment processes money translates to space and vice versa, so having the accurate dimensions of your inventory is a crucial part of running a successful business.
In return, you have the up-to-date data to realize efficient packing, and transportation, optimize warehouse slotting, capacity planning, and various other warehouse workflow processes.
Dimensioning is at the core of this – knowing the exact measurements and weight of SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) in your warehouse to optimize every warehouse process, such as picking, packing, shipping, and distributing.
Introduction to Dimensioning
In the world of warehousing and logistics there exist two kinds of dimensioning methods – traditional (or manual) dimensioning and automated dimensioning.
Traditional dimensioning means the manual way of measuring and weighing the inventory. This process entails measuring boxes, pallets, and other possible containers with a tape measurer, or for the smaller packages a ruler, and then entering this data into a warehouse management system (WMS).
While this method can be used to do the job, it seems incomprehensible to use this method of dimensioning for large amounts of orders. However, there are still many warehouses and large logistic companies that practice this every day.
Automated dimensioning entails measuring the same dimensions by using a dimensioner - a machine paired with cameras and a weighing scale to calibrate the dimensional weight (DIM) of items quicker and more accurately.
While both methods can be used to improve the reduction in unoccupied packing space and optimize the decrease in packaging costs, one of these methods works more accurately and faster for other tasks.
The dimensions are measured to then calculate DIM, which is calculated by dividing the cubic size of a package by the DIM divisor - a number determined by shipping companies that varies among each one of them. This makes up the DIM pricing model which refers to shipping costs for a package.
Benefits of Automated Dimensioning
The continuous rise of transportation, packaging, and warehousing costs are forcing shippers and warehouses to make the most of their services and concurrently DIM pricing is the factor that drives the same companies to reduce box sizes and cost to ship orders and maximize the utilized space.
An automated dimensioning system is made to provide quick and accurate dimensions of each SKU coming into a warehouse. However, how exactly can this data be used to answer the multiple challenges within the workflow of the warehouse? We’ll take a look at which warehouse workflow processes are affected by dimensioning and how they can be improved by automated dimensioning systems.
With a dimensioning system at hand, cartonization process can be even more efficient in determining how and if multiple items can fit in a single container since box dimensions can be determined more quickly and precisely. This saves precious time and money while ensuring that void fill (bubble wrap, air pillows, foam cushions, paper, etc.) is used as little as possible, thus increasing fill rates, and decreasing cardboard spending.
2. Box assortment and packing optimization
With the combination of dimensioning system and cartonization process, you can evaluate which box type is used the most and decrease your current box assortment. This way you can be sure that your business is buying box types that fit your order profile. Packing products in unnecessarily big boxes filled with void fill results in more transported air and inefficiency. While void fill is something to avoid, warehouses that use standard-sized cartons can use dimensioning to calculate how much void fill material is needed for packaging.
Based on our research and customer cases, cardboard cost is heavily related to box assortment decisions. Cardboard buyers in the company have the incentive to decrease the number of box types (higher demand per box type), which leads them to higher volume discounts, and a cheaper overall cardboard spend.
Invoicing (or freight bill of lading) is an efficient way to communicate with customers and carriers about the dimensional weight of an order or shipping goods. Without the knowledge of your inventory dimensions and weight, determining the accurate shipping cost can be difficult since you cannot be certain if the dimensions from the manual dimensioning method were precise and accurate enough. This ultimately can come with disputes about the billing which is based on the dimensional weight from carriers.1
Accurate dimensional data can help businesses keep track of inventory dimensions and decrease shipping expenses. This can also increase the accuracy of information provided in your invoices, making sure customers get the exact dimensions they have paid for.
Carriers like DHL, FedEx, and Essers, invoice their customers based on the weight and dimensional weight of the items. Therefore, dimensioning is a crucial process in their business. Every mistake in the process has a direct impact on the profits and loss and profit margin.
Warehouse slotting is analyzing SKU data and determining the most optimal categorization and SKU location based in a warehouse, which increases warehouse process efficiency. Items are slotted through the warehouse based on their size, weight, sales potential, and item correlation, which is the correlation between multiple items that are added to the shopping cart together. Slotting also allows you to know how much current space is occupied and how much space is available, allowing you to have up-to-date data for just-in-time inventory management.
With a dimensioning system, SKU dimensions can be automatically imported into a warehouse management system which significantly simplifies the process of determining how and where to arrange inventory for optimized pick density and decreased order fulfillment time, by taking into account the size of the available warehouse slots.
5. Receiving and put-away
With accurate dimensional measurement data, you can receive information on the dimensions of the incoming inventory which helps you forecast where in the warehouse these items can and should go. This form of assistance can save space in the warehouse and help forecast if and where each SKU can fit.
Picking items from a warehouse into a shipping box by a picker usually involves guessing which box type is the most suitable for multiple items varying in size. Choosing a box that is too small will lead to restacking into a different box, making the process more time-consuming. Choosing a box that is too big will either lead to restacking in a smaller box or filling in the empty space with void fill.
A dimensioning device could provide quick and accurate dimensional data on the items necessary for the order and assist pickers in choosing the right box type and decrease cardboard spend in the process.
7. Pallet building
When building a stable and secure pallet, knowing the dimensions and weight can be favorable. Upon data importation of inventory dimensions and weight in a warehouse management system, assistance can be provided when deciding how and where to place each item on a pallet, taking into account that the heaviest items should be placed at the bottom in order to have a lower center of gravity making the pallet more stable upon transportation or storage.
8. Load building
Load building is the process of creating the most efficient and effective way to load your freight onto vehicles, typically trucks and vans. Just like the previous workflows, dimensioning and weight data of inventory can have significant benefits for load building as well.
Since load building starts from the packaging, where the box with the minimal size required to pack several items of an order is determined, the data of the inventory dimensions and weight can be imported into a warehouse management system or an API, which assists with inventory loading onto trucks, taking into consideration overall truck limits, axle weight limits, and the loading sequence. This way you can ensure the optimal fill-rate while knowing that the first order loaded in the truck will be the last one off the truck.
9. Shipping costs
The diverse DIM pricing models have made an impact on the warehousing and logistic industry’s economics, but thankfully dimensioning systems and the gathered data can help with minimizing the cost for shippers.
The carrier freight charge is based on the maximum actual weight and the dimensional weight. If the DIM weight exceeds the actual weight of the item, the DIM weight is then used to calculate the price instead.2 By using our API, we exploit loopholes in these DIM pricing models, while packing the least air possible. This way we create monetary and sustainability incentives for you and your customers.
An Automated dimensioning system in today’s warehouse workflow is growing in demand and importance, which enables the automation of an increasingly important warehouse process that helps warehouses maximize, and utilize the available space, increase profit margins and reduce the time arguing about billing disputes or false carrier claims of inaccurate dimension data.
With an automated dimensioning system not only, we can optimize overall warehouse operations but also increase warehouse productivity and save time, since the manual process of measuring box dimensions can be tedious, time-consuming, and overall inaccurate for warehouse employees.
 Joachim, J. (2020). The top 5 ways automated dimensioning boosts shippers’ bottom line. Cargospectre.com. From: https://www.cargospectre.com/the-top-5-ways-automated-dimensioning-boosts-shippers-bottom-line/
 Burns, R. (2018). DIM Weight Calculation: How to Calculate Dimensional Weight Pricing. Shipbob.com. From: https://www.shipbob.com/blog/dimensional-weight-explained/